Every decision any one chooses to make is a focal point; balance between what we want and what we need. This point is the fine line between a desired life and a life that we struggle with. Sometimes however, the world that we struggle with is also a world that unknowingly, we desire, as in the case of the protagonist of James Joyces short story Eveline. As with other stories in Dubliners main characters are set out into a voyage, which represents a decision or serious choice, with a potential for life altering effects. In many of Evelines thoughts she sees her lover Frank is a symbol of change from a livelihood where she is a servant to a situation where she is respected and equal, when in reality he isnt much different from what she is living with, Throughout the story you ask yourself what would have happened if Eveline made the opposite decision. What would have happened if she got on the boat? Why did she decide not to? And how might she have made a compromise?
Evelines choices seem to be clear, go get on the boat and live a life where she would be happy, with some one who would love and would treat her more respect then her father did. However there is always another side to every action. Eveline pictures her lover Frank as a protective figure just as she did her father, but the major difference being that she didnt suspect him of being abusive like her father was. However this is more of unlikely fantasy.
The hope that Frank will be an unconditionally loving father is the result of a feminine fantasy on her part about belonging to a benevolent phallic economy that would regard her as a particularly valuable object of exchange.
Eveline projecting her desire of having this perfect father who would protect and love her, and most importantly fill in the roll of her father and then some, upon Frank is a result of her feeling as if she is a valuable object of exchange. The piece is written from a male perspective and treats Eveline and women in this fashion. Their relation to man X describes the women in the piece.
One of the primary vices in action is Evelines inability to release a promise which she made to her mother to maintain the family, Eveline Talks herself into believing that her promises are more important then herself.
Confrontational with her mother's ghost but unable to disregard the promise to fulfill her duty, 'keep the home together,' and inhabit Mrs. Hill's own doomed role (including her nervous breakdown), Eveline is condemning herself to a life of Oedipal inhibition.
In other words Eveline by staying back and not making the decision to make a change in life is sentencing herself to being trapped back at home under a semi-abusive, controlling man. The fact that she chose to stay suggests that she actually desires this type of world, that she actually would rather be told what to do and be in near servitude then be with a man who she believes might give her a sense of freedom and self satisfaction. Eveline is in an anti-narcissist, causing her own suffering, by allowing her mothers ghost to force this situation upon her. When Eveline decides to not take the boat, it isnt frank that she perceives to be the problem, it is the fact that she doesnt believe in herself, and is indecisive.
More to the main point in "Eveline" is the nature of her indecision and her eventual paralysis. This intimidated girl perceives in sailor Frank's vitality and amiability something more pleasing and reassuring than anything in the Dublin life she has known, and it is not implied that she doubts him. What she doubts is herself. Too many burdens and restrictions have conditioned her to abandon hope and merely endure, with those bare consolations she weighs as "shelter and food"
When Frank appears in the picture it is just a spark that catches her attention and manages to hold its focus while she is still truly in her fathers pocket; even though she thinks in marrying him she might gain respect for herself. Franks appearance makes Eveline question and doubt all of her existing actions and situations; as she sits by the window and stares, She sat at the window watchingShe was tired(Bedford 524) as she recollected the past memories that made her unhappy home, her home. In particular she remembers moments before her mothers death that have a special meaning, moments where all of her brothers were alive and being children playing in a yard which is now a series of clashing houses. And the questions that have yet to be answered at her home such as the name of the priest whose picture hung on the wall. Whether or not Ms. Gavan would swoop in on her family as soon as she left. These moments solidify the grasp that her mother has upon her conscious by constraining her mental growth and physical movement through promises and moral tokens.
Eveline suddenly lost all love and hope for Frank at the last moment. How could that happen after months of courting and planning and even up to the point of booking a ticket and nearly getting on the boat? Eveline makes a drastic change; she realizes that the difference between Frank and her father arent all that stout. That Frank and her father are actually the same type of person but wrapped differently, she would be trading an unhappy life for an uncertain, possibly miserable one.
What precipitated this ultimate seizure as Frank tried to draw her with him was the indefinable but terrifying sense that "all the seas of the world" in its strange far regions and ways are only an extension of what she already knows--the multiplicity of the disparate and unamenable which has brought her to a neurotic fatigue beyond any remedy but one, apathy. When she sends her "cry of anguish" from "amid the seas," these are real depths; nor is she out of them.
Nothing would change for her, she would acquire new guilt in place of old responsibilities, which would cause her to probably just come back to Ireland and enter right back into same situation she was in but with even more resentment pointed at her. This is what she realized when she was at the dock preparing to board the boat while having Frank hold onto her, as if she might get lost. Just as her father would have done; similarly to being blamed for not buying Sunday dinner on Sunday morning when he didnt give her money. Eveline realizes that she would not be stepping out of a phallic economy into an equal economy, but be simply changing the medium in which she was subject to it.
It is now that "a bell clanged upon her heart" as she feels herself about to be engulfed in "all the seas of the world." Now Frank, who she had thought "would save her," appears as one about to draw her into those seas and "drown her." This cannot be taken to mean she suspects him of bad faith.
But it can mean that she suspects him of being the same thing that she is currently living with, instead of take her in his arms, fold her in arms. He would save her(526). He would be putting her right back where she was thus, drowning her.
In Scott Trudells essay, he writes that Eveline is suffering from a Freudian Oedipal complex, being in love with her father, even acting as his housewife to the point where her father associates her with his late wife and becomes abusive towards her. However when her brothers step out of the scene it allows her to look for new mates to attempt to be happy with.
The fact that Harry and Ernest have departed from Eveline's life would imply, in Freudian terms, that she is now freer to find a non-incestuous, although father-like, sexual partnerEveline treats her lover as another version of her father, a new father that will protect her and "perhaps love" her but, more importantly, "give her life."
So in reality Eveline really doesnt want change, she is contempt and probably secretly happy with the hard life that she already has, and eventually sees that Frank in fact represents her father, but in a different skin. In realizing this she decides that it isnt worth the troubles that she might come across while changing her situation and life. At the last moment dropping her previous promises to Frank and going back to home she knew. Evelines choice to not leave with Frank, really wasnt a choice at all, it was a mere deduction of risk, which one would be steadier, which one would she be satisfied with, and which one she fixed to? Her decision was to stay back home where she knew the course of daily life and was contempt with being a servant in exchange for simplicity.